The assassination of the editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari once again brings under the spotlight how unsafe the state of Jammu and Kashmir (especially kaashmir) is for journalists. Over the decades, scores of mediapersons have been abducted, beaten and tortured for simply doing their job.
But Bukhari was just one of the many journalists who were killed for practising the professional and believing it has the power to initiate change .
Altaf Ahmed Faktoo – 1 January, 1997
Altaf Ahmed Faktoo, an anchor with Doordarshan TV in Srinagar, was shot dead by gunmen who were reportedly separatist militants.
Faktoo had received a plethora of threats over his career, predominantly over his pro-government reports that were largely against the separatist movement. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that he had also survived a kidnapping episode in 1994, again carried out by a militant group.
Shortly before his death, Faktoo had begun airing a programme on Kashmir that was reportedly broadcast all over India, except in Kashmir.
Ashok Sodhi – 11 May, 2008
Ashok Sochi, a senior photographer with Kashmir-based Daily Excelsior, was killed in crossfire between militants and security forces in Samba.
According to a BBC report, the militants had held hostages and were exchanging gunfire, which resulted in the death of three militants, one soldier, and three civilians.
In 2015, the Press Club of Jammu instituted a photojournalist award in honour of Sodhi.
Asiya Jeelani – 20 May, 2004
Asiya Jeelani was a freelance print reporter who predominantly covered human rights issues. She was killed after a van carrying an election monitoring team set off an explosive, possibly a land mine, on a rural road in Kupwara. She died en route the hospital.
Ghulam Mohammad Lone – 29 August, 1994
Ghulam Mohammad Lone, a freelance print reporter, who also wrote for the English newspaper Greater Kashmir, was killed by unidentified gunmen at his residence. The gunmen also shot at his seven-year-old son. The Srinagar police had alleged that the gunmen were separatists.
However, in an article for Newslaundry, Shujaat Bukhari reported that Lone was killed by security forces. He also wrote that Lone had “disappeared in CRPF custody in 1990.”
Ghulam Rasool Sheikh – 10 April, 1996
At the time of his death, Ghulam Rasool Sheikh was the editor of Urdu daily Rehnuma-e-Kashmir, and also helmed the English weekly Saffron Times. He was found floating in the Jhelum river, incidentally after he had reported on the increase of arson and killings in his hometown Pampore.
His family had then alleged that members of a security forces-backed militia group was behind Sheikh’s death.
Javed Ahmed Mir – 13 August, 2008
Javed Ahmed Mir was killed by security forces while on assignment to cover a protest in Srinagar. According to local journalists who spoke to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mir, a cameraperson, had been called away from a wedding by his employer Channel 9 to cover the protest. He was reportedly waiting for the equipment to come near the protest site, when security forces opened fire, killing him and several others.
The forces reportedly killed around 26 people that day in order to restore peace at the protest, which were triggered by the transfer of a land to a Hindu temple in June that year.
Lassa Kaul – 13 February, 1990
Director of Doordarshan Kendra, Lassa Kaul was reportedly killed by militants outside his residence in Bemina. He was visiting his aged parents, and had stepped out of his car when he was shot by masked gunmen.
According to a report in The Wire, the murder was caught on camera by photojournalist Mehraj Din. The Doordarshan instituted an award in honor of Kaul – the Lassa Kaul Award for national integration.
Mushtaq Ali – 10 September, 1995
Ali, a photographer for AFP and a cameraperson for ANI, was killed by a messenger bomb that exploded in his hands. The package was incidentally delivered for Yusuf Jameel, who was the BBC and Reuters correspondent from Srinagar.
Since Jameel was on the phone, Ali picked up the package, which was delivered by a burqa-clad unidentified woman. The bomb reportedly severed Ali’s left hand, disfigured his face and damaged his abdomen, and he succumbed to his injuries three days later.
Parvaz Mohammed Sultan – 31 January, 2003
At the time of his death, Parvaz Mohammed Sultan was the editor of News and Feature Alliance (NAFA), an independent newswire service. He was reportedly shot dead by two unidentified gunmen at his office located in Press Enclave in Srinagar.
Quoting an AP report, the CPJ stated that Sultan engaged in a conversation with one of the men, following which he was shot in his head, presumably by a pistol with a silencer. Sultan was rushed to the hospital minutes after he was shot, and was declared dead on arrival. The police alleged that Sultan was killed by militants, although a thorough investigation is yet to be conducted.
Pradeep Bhatia – 10 August, 2000
Pradeep Bhatia, a journalist with Hindustan Times, was among the 12 people who were killed in a bomb blast in Srinagar. Six other journalists were reportedly killed along with Bhatia in the blast. The Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the same later.
The militants had hurled a grenade at the entrance of the State Bank of India in central Srinagar, luring journalists and security forces to investigate. About 15 minutes later, a car bomb went off hardly a few metres away, killing several people, including Bhatia.
Also Read: Kashmir – A Place of Stone Pelters
Saidan Shafi – 16 March, 1997
Saidan Shafi, who was a reporter with the Doordarshan TV, was shot dead by two masked gunmen in Srinagar. Shafi ran a programme that was critical of the Kashmiri separatists. Following his report, Shafi reportedly received death threats from separatists for his ‘biased’ reportage.